Kelsey’s Chef Wins Judges’ Choice Award in So Cal Chef Open

Ronnel with Trophy_sm
Chef Ronnel Capacia of Kelsey’s at Pechanga

TEMECULA, Calif. – (October 31, 2016) – Competing against 12 other professional chefs with a wide variety of talents from across the Southern California region, Chef Ronnel Capacia of Kelsey’s at Pechanga Resort & Casino emerged the winner in the 2016 So Cal Chef Open Judges’ Choice category. Held Monday, October 24 inside the Pechanga Grand Ballroom, Chef Ronnel won out over the competition with his slow-cooked pork belly sliders with BBQ baked beans and chicharrónes. The eight judges, which included regional chefs not competing in the event, food writers and other experts, conducted a blind taste test of all 12 entrants’ dishes. Judges gave high marks for the composition and design of Chef Ronnel’s Pork Belly Sliders, but ultimately the fusion flavors of maple syrup, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and green onions that created the glaze for the tender pork belly, and the fresh, raw vegetable accompaniments and light cucumber salad sold the judges on the 31-year old chef’s creation.

Award Winning Pork Belly Slider

“We were there to have fun and honored to have been chosen to participate to help raise money for Oak Grove Center,” said Capacia. “From the start of the event, we had the biggest line of all the booths. People waited in line for 20 minutes to get one slider. I guess we thought we might win the People’s Choice award, though it’s humbling and a great esteem to win the Judges’ Choice Pinnacle Award.”

Judged by certified executive chefs from the Art Institute in Riverside, Calif., and the only certified master chef in the state, Capacia credits his sous chefs, Steven Agosto and Isreal Hernandez, for earning the Pinnacle Award. The tender pork belly cooked sous vide and simmered for 16 hours to enhance flavor and tenderize the meat probably helped, too.

The Oak Grove Golf Classic and So Cal Chef Open raised $63,467.00, more than double the amount of last year’s events. All proceeds benefit the Oak Grove Center in Murrieta, Calif. Oak Grove provides a residential, educational, and therapeutic treatment center that serves 76 children who live on campus as well as 90 – 100 day students who attend its nonpublic school. Children within the programs are dealing with a variety of psychological, social, emotional, behavioral, medical and neurological problems along with concurrent behavioral difficulties, school problems, family dysfunction and alcohol or substance abuse. Many of the children have suffered a variety of physical and/ or sexual abuse, other traumas or have experienced many other severe social, emotional or behavioral challenges.